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Easy Ways to Help Dogs Cope With Fireworks

Written by Michelle Kretzer | July 3, 2012

Every Fourth of July, I end up with an 80-pound lap dog. From the moment the first firecracker pops, my German shepherd mix, Hannah, tries to convince me that she’s not that heavy and that the best way for us to mark the holiday is with her squashed up against my legs. Fortunately, there are some ways for both of us to survive Independence Day fireworks without my losing my independence to a canine-inflicted leg injury:


Dennis from Atlanta
|cc by 2.0

  • The most soothing thing for scared dogs is to have their guardians close by. It’s pretty easy for me to distract Hannah with games, brushing, petting, or food, and I make sure that I act upbeat and calm in order to reinforce the idea that she doesn’t have a reason to be afraid.
  • Drowning out fireworks with white noise or, even better, with “Through a Dog’s Ear” CDs, which are specially created by a sound scientist, a veterinarian, and a concert pianist to calm anxious dogs, makes the loud booms seem less frightening, and shutting the curtains and keeping the lights on helps to camouflage any sudden bursts of light.
  • Melatonin is the best calming natural supplement for dogs, and you can find it at any health food store. Give your dog from 1 to 4 mg, depending on bodyweight, and try to give it a little ahead of the fireworks, if possible.
  • A Thundershirt might well be the best solution of all. This snug garment (based on the same principle as swaddling a baby) has a very high success rate at calming anxious dogs. Many pet supply stores and vets now stock them.

Also, although Hannah isn’t the type to bolt if she gets startled, many dogs do dig under fences, tear through screen doors and windows, and even chew their way out of crates (another reason why crates are a bad idea) when they’re afraid, so I’ve got her microchipped and I keep her collar and tags on her during the fireworks, just in case. If you know anyone who makes their dog stay outside, please urge them to keep the dog indoors at least on the Fourth of July in order to prevent him or her from escaping or getting injured.   

Here’s to a safe and stress-free Independence Day for you and your pooch!

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  • Kristen @vegan05 says:

    great post. Despite the rain in my area, people are finding ways to set of firecrackers/fireworks even before dark. I am using a combination of white noise and piano music by George Skaroulis ( the album is designed for dogs, is called songs for Sophie, and some of the proceeds go to animal rescue. Of course, if all that fails tonight, I also picked up some peanut butter pupcakes from the dog bakery as back-up. Yes, yes,… I guess I will encourage emotional eating for my dog is he feels too frightened, but just for tonight;)

  • Sunday St. John says:

    We have a 15 month old 182 lb Mastiff. He is terrified of fire works but the sounds were hours ago. It is 2 hours after the two small volleys and he still is in a panic. He can’t seem to calm down. When we do ANYTHING to assist him, he gets worst. Not sure what to do… any suggestions would be helpful.

  • PETA says:

    Hi Robert, These tips apply to cats as well as to dogs. You can use melatonin or a “pet calming aid” called Rescue Remedy on cats. There are Thundershirts made specifically for cats. Music might be helpful for cats as it helps drowns out the noise; playing with them would help distract them. Of course, you’d always want to keep cats indoors. Thanks for asking!

  • AKG says:

    Wish people would not use fire works on Independence Day. Our terrier is alarmed by them and barks loudly. What a waste of money, when there are so many hungry people in the world.

  • judy says:

    Thanks so much for all your suggestions.

  • Giovanna says:

    Fireworks used to be a huge problems for my dog. I tried everything but it was impossible to calm her down. I started to be afraid she could have an hearth attack. Then I bought a collar named ADAPTIL and put it on my dog few days before the fireworks.It worked! Fireworks are still very scary for my dog but she doesn’t panic as she used to do.

  • Robert from Norway says:

    Any tips for cats?

  • MollyG says:

    My baby Stella has never experienced fireworks, to my knowledge. She was born on May 30th of 2011, but was treated for Parvo when she was 1-2 months old. She’s such a little trooper. She’s not scared of thunderstorms, so we’ll see. But there shouldn’t even be any fireworks this year where I live. The wildfires around my town have made the Governor ban them this year. So we shall see! But I will do anything to make her comfortable.

  • Timo says:

    We try to comfort our cats but they would rather disappear under the beds. When we (cats included) thought the neighbours were all through I fed the cats their dinner when all of the sudden, another *bang* and they ran from their food and hid (they never leave their food until they’re done!). By the way, I speak in past tense because Canada Day is July 1st.

  • Lorraine says:

    My german shepherd has the same reaction. I am having a hard time getting her to go on walks, which she always loves, since fireworks started weeks ago, since they are now legal in Rhode Island. Hopefully after today it will calm down a bit. Good luck.

  • Toni says:

    nothing helps my lab. Treats, games, thundershirt, composure, bach flower essences, nothing. I think it’s a conditioned response. He can hear the noise from miles away and he will start to tremble and pant. I have to keep him from destroying things in his path. I literally have to put him in the car and remove him from the fireworks, which is miles and miles away on a highway where there aren’t any fireworks. Then even the next day he doesn’t want to go out. It is very stressful for both of us

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